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Heteropogon contortus W IMG 3500

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Monocots
Cladus: Commelinids
Ordo: Poales

Familia: Poaceae
Subfamilia: Panicoideae
Tribus: Andropogoneae
Subtribus: Anthistiriinae
Genus: Heteropogon
Species: Heteropogon contortus

Heteropogon contortus (L.) P.Beauv. ex Roem. & Schult., Syst. Veg., ed. 15 bis 2: 836 (1817)

Andropogon contortus L., Sp. Pl.: 1045 (1753).
Heteropogon hirtus Pers., Syn. Pl. 2: 533 (1807), nom. superfl.
Heteropogon contortus var. hirtus Hack. in C.F.P.von Martius & auct. suc. (eds.), Fl. Bras. 2(3): 267 (1883), nom. inval.
Sorghum contortum (L.) Kuntze, Revis. Gen. Pl. 2: 791 (1891).
Holcus contortus (L.) Stuck., Anales Mus. Nac. Buenos Aires 11: 48 (1904).
Andropogon allionii DC. in Lamarck & Candolle, Fl. Franç., ed. 3, 3: 97 (1805).
Heteropogon glaber Pers., Syn. Pl. 2: 533 (1807), nom. superfl.
Heteropogon hirsutus P.Beauv., Ess. Agrostogr.: 134 (1812), orth. var.
Heteropogon allionii (DC.) Roem. & Schult., Syst. Veg., ed. 15 bis 2: 835 (1817).
Andropogon polystachyos Roxb., Fl. Ind. 1: 265 (1820).
Heteropogon polystachyos (Roxb.) Schult., Mant. 2: 460 (1824).
Andropogon glaber Raspail, Ann. Sci. Nat. (Paris) 5: 307 (1825), nom. illeg.
Heteropogon firmus J.Presl in C.B.Presl, Reliq. Haenk. 1: 334 (1830).
Andropogon firmus (J.Presl) Kunth, Enum. Pl. 1: 486 (1833).
Andropogon messanensis Biv., Nuove Piante: 5 (1838).
Heteropogon roxburghii Arn. ex Nees, Gramineae: 51 (1841).
Heteropogon messanensis (Biv.) Guss., Fl. Sicul. Syn. 1: 164 (1843).
Heteropogon hohenackeri Hochst. ex Miq., Nieuwe Verh. Eerste Kl. Kon. Ned. Inst. Wetensch. Amsterdam, ser. 3, 4: 36 (1851), nom. nud.
Andropogon besukiensis Steud., Syn. Pl. Glumac. 1: 367 (1854).
Andropogon hispidissimus Steud., Syn. Pl. Glumac. 1: 367 (1854).
Andropogon hohenackeri Hochst. ex Steud., Syn. Pl. Glumac. 1: 368 (1854).
Heteropogon hispidissimus Hochst. ex Steud., Syn. Pl. Glumac. 1: 367 (1854), pro syn.
Heteropogon besukiensis (Steud.) Miq., Fl. Ned. Ind. 3: 494 (1857).
Andropogon austrocaledonicus Vieill., Ann. Sci. Nat., Bot., sér. 4, 16: 31 (1862), nom. nud.
Andropogon secundus Griseb., Fl. Brit. W. I.: 558 (1864), nom. illeg.
Andropogon bellardii Bubani, Nuovo Giorn. Bot. Ital. 5: 317 (1873), nom. superfl.
Heteropogon contortus var. glaber Hack. in C.F.P.von Martius & auct. suc. (eds.), Fl. Bras. 2(3): 268 (1883).
Andropogon contortus var. glaber (Hack.) Hack. in Candolle & Candolle, Monogr. Phan. 6: 587 (1889).
Andropogon contortus subvar. hispidissimus Hack. in Candolle & Candolle, Monogr. Phan. 6: 587 (1889).
Andropogon contortus subvar. roxburghii (Arn. ex Nees) Hack. in Candolle & Candolle, Monogr. Phan. 6: 586 (1889).
Andropogon contortus subvar. secundus Hack. in Candolle & Candolle, Monogr. Phan. 6: 587 (1889).
Heteropogon hirtus var. glaber (Hack.) Rendle in W.P.Hiern, Cat. Afr. Pl. 2: 153 (1899).
Andropogon contortus var. macroglumis Pilg., Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 30: 137 (1901).
Heteropogon contortus subvar. secundus (Hack.) Domin, Biblioth. Bot. 20: 276 (1915).
Heteropogon contortus var. hispidissimus (Steud.) Honda, Bot. Mag. (Tokyo) 40: 105 (1926).
Heteropogon contortus var. allionii (DC.) Cuénod, Fl. Tunis.: 59 (1954).
Heteropogon contortus var. polystachyos (Roxb.) Deshp., Bull. Bot. Surv. India 30: 121 (1990).
Heteropogon fertilis B.S.Sun & S.Wang, J. Yunnan Univ. (Nat. Sci. Ed.) 21: 96 (1999).
Heteropogon contortus var. hispidissimus (Hack.) M.R.Almeida, Fl. Maharashtra 6A: 155 (2014), nom. illeg.

Native distribution areas:

Continental:Tropics & Subtropics to S. Central Europe
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andaman Is., Angola, Argentina Northeast, Argentina Northwest, Arizona, Assam, Baleares, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil North, Burkina, Burundi, California, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canary Is., Cape Provinces, Cape Verde, Caprivi Strip, Central African Repu, Chad, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Colombia, Comoros, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, East Himalaya, Ecuador, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Florida, France, Free State, Ghana, Guatemala, Gulf of Guinea Is., Guyana, Hainan, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Jawa, Kenya, KwaZulu-Natal, Laccadive Is., Lebanon-Syria, Leeward Is., Lesotho, Lesser Sunda Is., Madagascar, Malawi, Malaya, Mali, Maluku, Marianas, Marquesas, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexican Pacific Is., Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nansei-shoto, Nepal, Netherlands Antilles, New Caledonia, New Guinea, New Mexico, Nicaragua, Nicobar Is., Niger, Nigeria, Northern Provinces, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Rodrigues, Rwanda, Réunion, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sicilia, Sierra Leone, Society Is., Socotra, Somalia, South China Sea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sulawesi, Sumatera, Swaziland, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Texas, Thailand, Tibet, Togo, Tonga, Tunisia, Uganda, Vietnam, West Himalaya, Windward Is., Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe
Introduced into:
Ascension, Cook Is., Venezuela, Wallis-Futuna Is.

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition
Primary references

Palisot de Beauvois, A.M.F.J. 1807–1820. Flore d'Oware et de Bénin, en Afrique. Tome Second. 95 pp. p. LVI–CXX. Paris. BHL Bibliotheca Digital Reference page. : 2: 836. 844

Additional references

Clayton, W.D., Harman, K.T. & Williamson, H. (2006). World Grass Species - Synonymy database The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.


Govaerts, R. et al. 2015. Heteropogon contortus in Kew Science Plants of the World online. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published online. Accessed: 2015 Dec. 13. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2015. Heteropogon contortus. Published online. Accessed: Dec. 13 2015. 2015. Heteropogon contortus. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published online. Accessed: 13 Dec. 2015.

Vernacular names
Afrikaans: Pylgrass
English: tanglehead
suomi: Kierrevihnelatva
नेपाली: अर्थुङ्गे (वनस्पति)
پنجابی: سریالہ
Kiswahili: Kichoma-mguu
ไทย: หญ้าหนวดฤๅษี
中文: 扭黄茅

Heteropogon contortus is a tropical, perennial tussock grass with a native distribution encompassing Southern Africa, southern Asia, Northern Australia, Oceania, and southwestern North America. The species has also become a naturalised weed in tropical and subtropical regions in the Americas and East Asia. The plant grows to 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) in height and is favoured in most environments by frequent burning. The plants develop characteristic dark seeds with a single long awn at one end and a sharp spike at the other. The awn becomes twisted when dry and straightens when moistened, and in combination with the spike is capable of drilling the seed into the soil.

The species is known by many common names, including black speargrass, tanglehead, steekgras (in Afrikaans) and pili (in Hawaiian). H. contortus is a valuable pasture species across much of its range. However, it has also been responsible for the elimination of the wool industry over much of Australia due to the seeds becoming embedded in the wool and skin of sheep and devaluing the wool and killing the animals. H. contortus seeds are also responsible for similar injuries in dogs with thick undercoats, or becoming embedded in the socks and skin of hikers.

Native Hawaiians used pili to thatch hale (houses).[2] Ruler Pilikaʻaiea was named after the grass, and his royal house was Pili line (Hale o Pili).

See also

Mount Huangmao, the highest point in China's Zhejiang province, is named for the plant


"Heteropogon contortus". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2009-03-27.
Kanahele, George S. (1993). "Chapter 7: A Sense of Place". Kū Kanaka, Stand Tall: A Search for Hawaiian Values. University of Hawaii Press. p. 202. ISBN 978-0-8248-1500-4.

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